The Perhentian Islands are the ideal place to relax and forget about your cares and most people that visit here laze away their days in the sun. However, if you are tired of waiting for coconuts to drop, there are still some things that you can do to keep yourself occupied.
These islands have been gazetted as a marine park and as such littering, fishing and collecting of any marine life (whether dead or alive) is strictly prohibited. As it is a marine park, this also means that the rich diversity of aquatic life has been preserved and it is beautiful to experience.
Apart from walking, the only way to get around is by sea taxi. Expect to pay around RM 10-25 per person for 5-15 minute transfers.
Various operators and resorts offer snorkelling outings around the two islands, ranging anything from one and a half hours to a full day. Trips cost RM 35-60 per person, depending on the duration, stops and whether equipment rental is included or not.
Some of the popular spots for snorkelling are Shark Point, Teluk Pauh and Tanjung Basi. If you are lucky, a combination of these stops may mean that you see a turtle, some black tip reef sharks and an abundance of colourful coral all in one trip.
The sheer amounts of visitors and careless practices have resulted in damage to the coral and consequently the marine life around the islands. To ensure that you keep yourself safe and do your part to contribute to the conservation of these incredible ecosystems, keep the following in mind:
- Touching or standing on coral damages or even kills them and re-growth takes years
- Control your buoyancy carefully. Use a life jacket and only use fins if you are completely confident that you will not accidentally touch the coral.
- Do not litter. Some animals (like turtles) may mistake plastic bags for food and choke to death.
- Stay within the designated areas so that you do not cross boat paths and get hit
- Do not touch or disturb any marine life in any way. You may hurt them and some of them may hurt you. Keep your distance from Triggerfish as they may be aggressive, especially when guarding a nest
- Keep yourself protected from the sun
- When renting equipment, ask for assistance and tips from your resort to ensure a good fit (especially of your mask)
Scuba diving around the Perhentian Islands is a superb experience and many people visit here time and time again to explore the deep.
Some of the top spots are Tokong Laut (Temple of the Sea, also known as the Pinnacle) and the Sugar Wreck. Tokong Laut is a pointed rock protruding from the seabed, surrounded by all kinds of coral and home to numerous species of reef fish and other marine life. The Sugar Wreck is an eerie-looking sunken freight ship that lies at around 15-22m.
Marine life is in abundance here and apart from the many species of hard and soft coral that form the backbone of these ecosystems you can also expect to encounter turtles, several species of sharks, mackerel, jacks, moray eels, nudibranchs and various other reef fish.
There are numerous dive operators on both islands and there is hardly a beach that does not have at least two options for you to choose from for recreational dives or certification. Ensure that your dive centre is environmentally friendly and takes safety practices seriously.
If you enjoy exploring the underwater world, do your part to protect it. The golden rule, apart from never holding your breath, is to take only photographs and leave only bubbles! Below are some guidelines that every responsible diver must follow.
- Choose a dive operator that respects the environment and actively contributes to conservation efforts in the area.
- Never touch or step on coral. The slightest touch can harm them and some may hurt you.
- Prevent accidental contact with the reef or kicking up sediment by keeping a safe distance and practicing good fin and body control.
- Do not collect any “souvenirs” – living or dead - underwater, but do pick up recent rubbish
- Do not touch, chase, try to ride or otherwise harass any marine life. Feed and handle marine life only under expert guidance.
- Ensure that your dive boat does not anchor on the reef and make sure that all rubbish (especially light plastics) is carefully stowed away.
Tropical forest covers the greater part of the Perhentian Islands and a few trails that twist through the greenery allow you to explore the diversity of plant life. Tread quietly and you may just meet a few of the islands’ animals along the way. Monitor lizards are in abundance, as are numerous species of insects and birds. If you are lucky, you may even spot a group of long-tailed macaques (a type of monkey). The elusive mousedeer is also said to inhabit the island, but these tiny animals are rarely seen.
Remember to bring insect repellent and plenty of drinking water.